Thursday, April 30, 2009

LitLife Founder and Author Pam Allyn Visits District

Pam Allyn (top row, second from left), founder and executive director of LitLife, an internationally recognized organization that trains hundreds of K-12 teachers each year (including here in the Hoboken School District), and the founding director of Books for Boys, an award-winning mentoring and reading initiative at the Children's Village spoke to a group of District parents, teachers and administrators at Brandt School on Wednesday evening. Pam is the recipient of a Points of Light/Disney award and two James Patterson PageTurner Awards for excellence in bringing literacy to underserved populations. She is also the author of The Complete 4 for Literacy, a guide for educators, and coauthor of the six-book series The Complete Year in Reading and Writing. Ms. Allyn fielded questions from all and spoke of her new book entitled What to Read and When

LitLife and the Hoboken School District have partnered in a multi-year, long term partnership bringing state of the art professional development in language, reading and literacy to our professional staff in Grades 1-3 with a planned expansion into Grades 4 and 5 for 2009-2010. LitLife emphasis on self regulation and metacognitive skills helps children transition from decoding text to the development of more complex comprehension strategies. NCLB Coordinator Jennifer Lopez has facilitated much of the professional development aspects in the district and Hoboken High School principal Lorraine Cella was instrumental in bringing LitLife to the attention of Dr. Petrosino and Superintendent Raslowsky. LitLife is also serving as an external reviewer for he Language Arts curriculum revision project for Grades 1-5. 

Picture: Top Row - Left to Right
JRR, Pam Allyn, L. Cella, J. Lopez, Sharon Cantone (Literacy Coach),
Mimi Park (Parent from Stevens Coop)

Seated - Left to Right
Felicia Sacci (Literacy Coach), Linda Malba (Parent), Edith Vega

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Information for School and Childcare Settings- Swine Influenza A (H1N1)

New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services
Swine Influenza A (H1N1) Virus Information for School and Childcare Settings
April 27, 2009

No cases of swine influenza (H1N1), known as swine flu, have been detected in New Jersey as of April 26, 2009. However, this is a rapidly evolving situation. As more information becomes available and the situation unfolds, guidance is likely to change in the upcoming days and weeks. It is important for people to stay informed by monitoring information provided by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS).

Guidance for School and Childcare Settings
At this time, New Jersey recommends that schools and childcare settings increase education on respiratory hygiene and monitor attendees for acute febrile respiratory illness.

Staff and children (as developmentally appropriate) should all be taught and asked to follow these steps that prevent the transmission of infections such as influenza:
 Cover your coughs and sneezes.
 Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
 Wash hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing.
 Stay home if you’re sick, especially with a fever.

School or childcare participants with acute febrile respiratory illness, regardless of travel history, should be sent home according to facilities-established procedures with instructions to stay at home until 24-48 hours after their symptoms resolve. Instructions should be given to seek medical care with worsening of symptoms. At this time, exclusion is not recommended for school or childcare participants who have recently traveled to an affected area and who do not have symptoms.

Disease Reporting and Consultation
To report suspected cases of swine influenza or outbreaks of influenza like illness, please contact the local health department in the jurisdiction in which the school is located.

We are interested in testing individuals presenting with influenza-like illness (fever, cough, sore throat), mild respiratory illness (nasal congestion, rhinorrhea) with or without fever, vomiting, diarrhea, myalgia, headache, chills, fatigue, dyspnea and conjunctivitis.

Has had at least one potential exposure within 10 days of symptom onset as listed below:
A.) History of travel to an area where swine influenza H1N1 documented in animals and/or humans (see ); OR
B.) Close contact (within 6 feet) to an ill patient who was confirmed or suspected to have swine influenza; OR
C.) Close contact (within 6 feet) to an ill patient who has traveled to one of the areas above; OR
D.) Recent exposure to pigs; OR
E.) Works with live influenza virus in a laboratory.

For More Information :

U.S. CDC Swine Influenza Website:

Infection control and treatment guidance:

New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services

US High Schools- No Gains in 4 Decades on NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress)

U.S. high-school students haven't achieved any significant gains in reading or math for nearly four decades, according to a new federal report that underscores the challenges the Obama administration faces as it pressures schools to raise standards to produce a more competitive work force.

The report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress -- a highly respected federal test also known as the "Nation's Report Card" -- looked at NAEP results for 9-, 13- and 17-year-olds since the early 1970s, when the tests in math and reading were first given.

Although the two younger groups have made progress in those subjects over that period, scores for 17-year-olds were virtually unchanged.

On a zero-to-500-point scale, 17-year-olds scored an average of 286 points in reading in 2008, up one point from 1971. The NAEP report said students with such scores have "intermediate skills" and are able to make generalizations about what they read.

Numerous research reports have shown NCLB has led to narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test, organizational chaos, educator resentment, and other educational damage. Public opinion surveys have shown increasing public dislike of the law and strong opposition to the law's emphases on testing and sanctions.     

Summary of results from the NAEP 2008 Long Term Trend report, released April 28, 2009   

Age 9 reading: reading scores did go up 4 points from 2004 to 2008, but they went up 7 points from 1999 to 2004 (more than 1.5 points/year). That is, the rate of improvement has slowed substantially since NCLB took hold compared to a period when at most NCLB might have had some impact at the very end of the period (2003-04). This tendency is common across subjects and age levels.             

The black-white reading gap closed 3 points (statistically significant) while the Hispanic-white gap closed 4 points, also statistically significant. However, the Hispanic-white gap closed 7 points from 1999-2004, and the black-white gap closed 9 points from 1999-2004, about three times as fast. That is, while the racial gaps keep closing, the rate of closure has slowed dramatically. Similarly, there have been score gains for blacks and Hispanics, but the rate of improvement for both groups slowed in the 04-08 period compared with the 99-04 period.   Age 13 reading: scores rose modestly but were approximately level with the scores of the early to mid 1990s.             

The black-white gap closed 4 points from 2004-2008, but that gap closed 7 points from 1999-2004. The Hispanic-white gap actually widened by 2 points from 2004-08 after widening one point in the 99-04 period. Actual scores have improved for blacks, but not for Hispanics.   Age 17 reading: again, scores gained modestly, but in this case they have not returned to the higher levels reached from the late 1980s through the 1990s.            

The black-white gap widened by 2 points from 2004-08 after narrowing 2 points from 1999-2004; and the Hispanic-white gap widened by 4 points from 04-08 after widening by 5 points from 99-04, with NCLB failing to reverse a negative trend. The black-white gap remains far wider than it was at its narrowest, in 1988, and black scores are still below their 1988 peak. The same is true for Hispanics, with 1999 their peak year and the smallest gap with whites.   


Age 9 math: the largest gains in the past were from 1986-90 (8 points) and 1999-2004 (9 points) - both 2 points per year gains. However, the 4-point gain from 2004 to 2008 averages only 1 point per year, showing that improvement rates have declined in age 9 math since NCLB took hold.             

From 2004-08, the black-white gap widened by 2 points and the Hispanic-white gap remained unchanged, with no changes being statistically significant.   Age 13 math: in the five-year span from 1999 - 2004 NAEP rose 5 points, or 1 point per year. In the four years under NCLB, from 2004 to 2008, NAEP gains were only 2 points, or half the rate of improvement in the previous period.             

From 2004 to 2008, the black-white score gap closed 2 points and the Hispanic-white score gap remained unchanged, with no changes being statistically significant.   

Age 17 math: score have been essentially flat and are now slightly lower than the previous high point in 1999, prior to NCLB.             

The black-white gap closed one point from 2004-2008, while the Hispanic-white gap widened by two points, with no changes being statistically significant.    

The NAEP results are at with links to overall trends and trends by racial groups.   

Monday, April 27, 2009

Increasing Student Debt of College Graduates

In a recent NY Times article by Tara Siegel Berhard titled "In Grim Job Market, Student Loans Are a Costly Burden", we read about the increasing burden college students are taking on as they attempt to fund their college tuition. The most recent default rate on federal loans was 6.9 percent, the highest rate since 1998, according to preliminary data from the Education Department. But this statistic illustrates only a piece of the picture. It tracks only the students who started to repay their loans between October 2006 and Sept. 30, 2007, but who had defaulted by September 2008. And it doesn’t include loans in deferment or forbearance even though those borrowers are unable to make payments. Nor does it include loans not backed by the government. Perhaps seduced by the idea of graduating from a well-respected university, many students tend to overlook the consequences of graduating with debts that are likely to far exceed their starting salaries. And as many borrowers have learned, student loans are among the most ironclad debts, on par with child support, alimony and overdue taxes. They stick with you no matter what. Another factor adding to the troubling financial load of recent college graduates is the fairly high amount of consumer debt (a.k.a. credit card debt) that students leave college with these days. The average credit card debt owed by college students is about $2,700, with close to a quarter of students owing more than $3,000. About 10 percent owed more than $7,000. The picture is somewhat sobering but it is often best to discuss these issues with your children as graduation from high school approaches and college decisions either have been made or will be made shortly. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Understanding by Design- 2 Day Workshop

A 2 day workshop which was led by Elizabeth Rossani and supported by NCLB Title funding organized by Ms. Jennifer Lopez and Dr. Petrosino took place on Friday, April 24th at the Brandt Professional Development Center and Saturday, April 25th at the Hoboken High School school library. The workshop was coordinated with ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). 

What is Understanding by Design? It is the foundation of the revised curriculum that the Curriculum Committee has been working with for the past 18 months. As the curriculum is now being refined in it's final iteration, it was felt some additional formal professional development would be worthwhile in making sure the new curriculum is as consistent as possible with Understanding by Design. 

Indicators of Teaching for Understanding


-         Reflects a coherent design -- big ideas and essential questions clearly guide the design of, and are aligned with, assessments and teaching and learning activities.

-         Makes clear distinctions between big ideas and essential questions, and the knowledge and skills necessary for learning the ideas and answering the questions.

-         Uses multiple forms of assessment to let students demonstrate their understanding in various ways.

-         Incorporates instruction and assessment that reflects the six facets of understanding -- the design provides opportunities for students to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess.

-         Anchors assessment of understanding with authentic performance tasks calling for students to demonstrate their understanding and apply knowledge and skills.

-         Uses clear criteria and performance standards for teacher, peer, and self-evaluations of student products and performances.

-         Enables students to revisit and rethink important ideas to deepen their understanding.

-         Incorporates a variety of resources. The textbook is only one resource among many (rather than serving as the syllabus).


-         Informs students of the big ideas and essential questions, performance requirements, and evaluative criteria at the beginning of the unit or course.

-         Hooks and holds students' interest while they examine and explore big ideas and essential questions.

-         Uses a variety of strategies to promote deeper understanding of subject matter.

-         Facilitates students' active construction of meaning (rather than simply telling).

-         Promotes opportunities for students to "unpack their thinking" -- to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, or self-assess (incorporates the six facets of understanding).

-         Uses questioning, probing, and feedback to stimulate student reflection and rethinking.

-         Teaches basic knowledge and skills in the context of big ideas and explores essential questions.

-         Uses information from ongoing assessments as feedback to adjust instruction.

-         Uses information from ongoing assessments to check for student understanding and misconceptions along the way.

-          Uses a variety of resources (beyond the textbook) to promote understanding.


-         Can describe the goals (big ideas and essential questions) and performance requirements of the unit or course.

-         Can explain what they are doing and why (i.e., how today's work relates to the larger unit or course goals).

-         Are hooked at the beginning and remain engaged throughout the unit or course.

-         Can describe the criteria by which their work will be evaluated.

-         Are engaged in activities that help them to learn the big ideas and answer the essential questions.

-         Are engaged in activities that promote explanation, interpretation, application, perspective taking, empathy, and self-assessment (the six facets).

-         Demonstrate that they are learning the background knowledge and skills that support the big ideas and essential questions.

-         Have opportunities to generate relevant questions.

-         Are able to explain and justify their work and their answers.

-         Are involved in self- or peer-assessment based on established criteria and performance standards.

-         Use the criteria or rubrics to guide and revise their work.

-         Set relevant goals based on feedback.

Participants in the 2 day workshop included:

April 24, 2009
Ed Barfield, Bess Mitsakos, Kathleen Kelly, Geidy Dela Rosa, Tania Trinidad-Payamps, Tasha Leggard, Fran Cohen, Tara Donnelly, Kevin Metcalfe, Beth Tomlinson.
April 25, 2009
Ed Barfield, Bess Mitsakos, Kathleen Kelly, Tania Trinidad-Payamps, Isabel Bruno, Fran Cohen, Tara Donnelly, Kevin Metcalfe, Beth Tomlinson

Friday, April 24, 2009

TOOLS OF THE MIND- All Day Pre-K Workshop

Today, all preschool teachers involved with the Hoboken School District took part in a full day training session for the PreK-K program TOOLS OF THE MIND. The location of the workshop was the Brandt Professional Development Center located in Brandt School on Garden Street and the location of many of the District's Pre-K classrooms. Tools of the Mind is a research-based early childhood program that builds strong foundations for school success in preschool and kindergarten children by promoting their intentional and self-regulated learning. In a series of rigorous experimental trials, Tools of the Mind has been shown to have a significant impact on self-regulation of preschool children. The study also found these gains in self-regulation to be related to scores in child achievement in early literacy and mathematics. Workshop leaders included Amy Hornbeck and Sheila Corbin and was organized by Ms. Jessica Peters.

TOOLS OF THE MIND has been implemented this year in the Pre-K program in all Hoboken District PRE-K programs and will be the standard curriculum for all District Kindergarten classes beginning in 2009-10.

Picture: St. Francis School located on 3rd and Jefferson Street and the location for some District PRE-K classrooms using TOOLS OF THE MIND. 

2009 Best Education Schools in the Country- US News & World Report

Every teacher must first be a student, and the U.S. News rankings of education programs can help you find the right classroom. The rankings allow you to narrow your search by location, tuition, school size, and test scores. They also identify the best schools in specialties such as elementary education, special education, and administration. Vanderbilt University's Peabody College has drawn the top spot among education and human development graduate schools from this year’s U.S. News and World Reports university rankings. 

The annual graduate school rankings were released by U.S. News on Thursday. They are based on expert opinions about program quality and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students. More than 1,200 programs were considered by about 11,000 academics and professionals.

The No. 1 ranking for Peabody is the highest ranking of a Vanderbilt graduate or professional school in the history of the U.S. News rankings. The school moved up from its No. 2 spot last year, passing Stanford.

1. Vanderbilt University
2. Stanford University
3. Teachers College, Columbia University
4. University of Oregon
6. Harvard University
7. Johns Hopkins University
7. Northwestern University
7. UC Berkeley
7. University of Texas at Austin
7. University of Wisconsin- Madison 
12. University of Washington

The Hoboken School District has fair representation in the US News and World Report's top ten list with programs and graduates resident in our district: 

a) Our Johns Hopkins Program for Gifted and Talented Youth is represented from #7 Johns Hopkins University 
b) Our Columbia University's Writing Program at Hoboken High School (#3 ranked Teachers College, Columbia University)
c) Dr. Lorraine Cella (Principal of Hoboken High School) received her doctorate from  #3 Teachers College and is an adjunct faculty member there. 
d) Superintendent Raslowsky received his Master's Degree in Educational Administration from #6 ranked Harvard University. 
e) Dr. Petrosino received his Doctorate from Vanderbilt; his Master's from Teachers College, his 2 year post-doc was at University of Wisconsin-Madison;  and received tenure at The University of Texas at Austin.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Petrosino assists National Science Foundation and ITEST Program

The Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST)* program (program solicitation) was established by the National Science Foundation in direct response to current concerns and projections about the growing demand for professionalsand information technology workers in the U.S. and seeks solutions to help ensure the breadth and depth of the STEM workforce. ITEST supports research studies to address questions about how to find solutions. It also supports the development, implementation, testing, and scale-up of implementation models. A large variety of possible approaches to improving the STEM workforce and to building students’ capacity to participate in it may be implemented and studied. ITEST projects may include students or teachers, kindergarten through high school age, and any area of the STEM workforce. Projects that explore cyberlearning, specifically learning with cyberinfrastructure tools such as networked computing and communications technologies in K-12 settings, are of special interest.

This program is interested in addressing such questions as: What does it take to effectively interest and prepare students to participate in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce of the future? What are the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students need in order to participate productively in the changing STEM workforce and be innovators, particularly in STEM-related networked computing and information and communication technology (ICT) areas? How do they acquire them? How can the Nation’s burgeoning cyberinfrastructure be harnessed as a tool for STEM learning in classrooms and informal learning environments? What will ensure that the nation has the capacity it needs to participate in transformative, innovative STEM advances? How can we assess and predict inclination to participate in the STEM fields and how can we measureand study impact of various models to encourage that participation?

Dr. Petrosino was asked recently to be a part of ITEST---his efforts with the National Science Foundation and the goals of ITEST will benefit curricula efforts in the district in the area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Board of Education Meeting- APRIL 28, 2009




APRIL 28, 2009


            DATE:                                    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

            TIME:                                    7:00 p.m. Organization Meeting; Special Meeting to follow  

            LOCATION:                        Board Meeting Room

                                                           1115 Clinton Street

                                                            Hoboken, New Jersey 07030



 Board business, appointments, re-instatements and resolutions will be discussed and formal action will be taken.


      1.      Swearing in of new Members

      2.      Election of President and Vice President

      3.      Designation of Official Depositories and Newspapers

      4.      Approval of meeting dates

      5.       Approval to enter into Cooperative Pricing Agreement




                        1.            Reduction in Force; Non-Renewals; Terminations



 Any matters relating to the above items that may come before the Board.   Action may be taken on all agenda items.





                                                            Published by order of the Board of Education of the                                                                         School District of the City of Hoboken.

                                                            David Anthony

                                                            Board Secretary

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fagan on Prestigious Best Practices Panel- Engineering Education

Principal Charles Tortorella, Principal of Wallace School and Ms. Carol Shields of Stevens Institute of technology are happy to announce that faculty member Mr. Dan Fagan from Wallace School in Hoboken has been selected to be the elementary representative on the ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Best Practices Panel. He will be presenting at the 2009 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition in Austin Texas on June 15. His topic will be "Real World Learning in Engineering, Science, Mathematics, and Technology."

District Factor Group (DFG) Explained/ Hoboken's DFG is "FG"

Introduction: The New Jersey Department of Education introduced the District Factor Grouping system (DFG) in 1975. This system provides a means of ranking school districts in New Jersey by their socioeconomic status (SES). The first DFG was based on data from the 1970 decennial Census. A revision was made in 1984 to take into account new data from the 1980 Census and to slightly change the theoretical model of socioeconomic status. Following is a description of the work undertaken in the construction of the third DFG, reflecting data from the 1990 Census.

Socioeconomic Status and Educational Performance: The DFG was motivated by research conducted in the late 1960's and early 1970's that showed a strong relationship between socioeconomic status and educational outcomes. The creators of the DFG were concerned that educational policymakers, after reviewing the educational outcomes obtained in different circumstances, would make unjustified inferences about the importance of various, school-based inputs to the educational process. Because the research showed that students (i.e. what students bring to school, including socialization that takes place before they step inside the school building) are the most important determinant of educational outcomes, the effectiveness of school systems cannot be sensibly judged without reference to the socioeconomic background of their students.

The DFG Model: The DFG is an index of socioeconomic status that is created using data for several "indicators" available in the decennial Census of Population. Socioeconomic status cannot be measured directly. Rather, the literature holds that it is a function of other, measurable quantities (traditionally, the basic three are income, occupation, and education). Therefore, the DFG is a composite statistical index created using statistical procedures, a "model" of socioeconomic status, and input data for various socioeconomic traits. Seven indices were developed from the census data as follows:

Percent of population with no high school diploma

Percent with some college


Population density




These seven indices were utilized in a principal components analysis to produce a statistical score which was used to rank all New Jersey districts. Districts were then grouped so that each group would consist of districts having factor scores within an interval of one tenth of the distance between the highest and lowest scores.

Districts are ranked from "A" (lowest score) to "J" (highest score).
Hoboken is an "FG" district.

Friday, April 17, 2009

HoLa, Others, Contend for New State Charters

The following story was posted online on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 by KEN THORBOURNE of The Jersey Journal. 

A North Hudson Catholic school principal and a parent who proposed a dual-language program in Hoboken are among the 27 applicants to the state Department of Education who want to open charter schools in September 2010. With St. Joseph of the Palisades High School, in West New York, slated to close in June, principal Bruce A. Segall has applied for a charter to open the "Palisades Charter School," which would ultimately serve 400 students in West New York, North Bergen and Union City, according to a DOE release. Segall couldn't be reached to comment yesterday. But his current employer - the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark - gave the proposed charter thumbs down. "Closing a Catholic school in order to start a charter school is not something the diocese is in favor of at all," said Archdiocese spokesman James Goodness. "We don't want to have charter schools because charter schools are public schools." The Catholic high school is $400,000 in debt and the parish is $2 million in debt, most of which is related to operating the school, he said.

After working with the Hoboken Public School District for a year to start a dual-language program, parents Jennifer Hindman Sargent and Camille Korschun Bustillo walked away empty-handed in February when the school board shot down their proposal in a 4-3 vote. "We felt we needed to explore all the avenues before giving up," Hindman Sargent said yesterday about her DOE application. "The Hoboken Dual Language Charter School (Ho La)" would ultimately run from kindergarten to Grade 5 with 264 students, said Hindman Sargent, who holds a master's in education. Spanish would be spoken 90 percent of time in kindergarten and first grade and English would be phased in after that, she said.

State Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy plans to announce the results of the review of the new applications on or about Sept. 30.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hoboken High School Compared to NJ State Averages in Language Arts and Mathematics (2006-2008): The Facts and the Data

The following are data taken from the NJ State Report Card for student test scores in Mathematics and Language Arts from Hoboken High School (2006-2008). The format is: Hoboken High School Score (NJ State Average Score). As you can see by the data and the graphs, the scores of Hoboken High School do not differ significantly from NJ State Averages on official tests of accountability. Recent assertions by numerous bloggers and concerned citizens and taxpayers would be advised to reference this data to make their arguments rather than base their conjectures on opinion or rumor. In addition, Hoboken does above average when compared to other Abbott Districts (look for forthcoming post on that data). As discussed numerous times on this blog, learning is more complex than simple standardized test scores. Every year a different set of students are tested in the 11th grade. We try to identify the students who are at risk for falling below proficiency by incorporating practice tests and/or identification criteria in the sophomore year for struggling students. We then offer tutoring for those students. This year we are redoubling our efforts in identifying students to participate in HSPA tutoring courses (held on Saturday mornings). Personally, I am excited by the future as our programs and new curriculum take hold and positively impact the teaching and learning in ALL subject areas in our district and ultimately test scores. In any case, I post this data for trying to add objective data to a sometimes subjective discourse. 

Language Arts
Year: Hoboken High School Score (NJ State Average Score)
2006: 82.7 (83.5)
2007: 88.5 (85.4)
2008: 81.8 (83.4)

Year: Hoboken High School Score (NJ State Average Score)
2006: 74 (75.9)
2007: 75.3 (73.4)
2008: 66.2 (75.4)

Total passing rate is calculated by adding % students who achieve Proficient + Advanced Proficient status.

Data is from the NJ Department of Education and the Jersey Journal (3/3/08; p. 5). Graphs and data presentation were created by Dr. Petrosino. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Confusing Test Scores With 'Being Well-Educated'

The following is an open letter from Deb Meier (pictured) to Diane Ravitch concerning the issue of test scores and being "well educated". An argument that is both thoughtful and subtle. This was published online in Education Week. For those of you wanting to know more about these two thoughtful (but quite different educators), please click HERE. Trying to strike the balance between being "data informed" and "data driven" has been an ongoing goal for me here in Hoboken the past 18 months. -Dr. Petrosino

Dear Diane,

A great Tuesday letter. It has outraged some of my friends—whose strategic approach now is to applaud anything moving in our direction and speak quietly about anything we profoundly disagree with.

Yes, alas: Duncan’s office is not yet offering a change either of us can believe in.

To stimulate the economy, Obama’s education plan includes more focus on charters, and for teachers, schools, and districts that implement so-called “merit pay” based on student test scores. Aside from misdirecting the goals of education, it misdirects the path to a good education. By confusing test scores with “being well-educated,” and the motivation to do a good job as synonymous with financial reward, we undermine values essential to democracy.

The “rulers” of our economy had plenty of incentives to build a healthy economy. Trillions. They spent their smarts on making sure they increased their share of the pie. And if their pay had depended on decreasing the earning gap, I suspect they’d have hired statisticians to play with that data, just as they did with the economy—and just as their educational counterparts have done with education data. Diane, you have been a steady voice in alerting us to misinformation, especially on the NYC front. Who will be doing this for the new Duncan DOE? Hopefully it won’t be people who perhaps need to speak softly to avoid placing themselves outside the circle of power. Critics are needed as much when we win an election as when we lose one. One advantage of being older and retired is that we have less to lose.

The more high stakes the data, the more corrupt become the data—which I’m told is called Campbell’s Law. We poison the well once we promise folks more money for “better data.” When “data” (e.g. test scores) are in the driver’s seat, beware. We also need more independent “juries” to analyze and make recommendations based on independent information. The phrase itself “data-driven,” rather than “data-informed,” gives me the chills.

We also need sensible longitudinal research, to explore the connection between test scores, school models, etc., and “doing better” 10 years out. This is uncharted territory. We might explore, in short, what “doing better” could or should mean in real life.

I recently read about a high and mighty American who was lauded for “freezing” his pay—at $11 million a year. It’s not merely that such wages are a waste, maybe even bad for his particular business operation, but that they corrupt the concept of democratic society (one vote per citizen, et al). It reminds me of the story about Marie Antoinette offering to give the poor cake, or the joke about how even a poor man was guaranteed a place to sleep—if only under the bridges of Paris. (I have no doubt messed up both stories, but I suspect, Diane, you know their mythical sources.)

Whether we’re talking about schools that teach the academic disciplines or the interdisciplinary “habits of mind” and “heart” that underlie a complex democratic society, or even “2lst Century skills,” we should be alarmed at the direction the newly staffed Department of Education seems headed. The most heralded change is in finding a new title for NCLB, rather than tackling its basic hypocrisy. Despite (or because) those closest to our schools—school boards, parents, teachers—oppose the testing mania, those in D.C. seem as disposed as ever to ignore such “self-interested” opinions.

Tests, as we know them today, are not even good sources for knowing if Johnny can read. Does becoming “skilled” at the components of reading tests translate to becoming “whole” readers”? And, if it does, can we assume this translates into reading more and more wisely? There are ways to make for technically better readers that do not make for a better-educated citizen or employee, much less a creative and inventive one.

Being taught early, over and over, that making a predetermined “wrong answer” (out of a predetermined four or five) has serious intellectual and social consequences is dangerous. It leads to bad pedagogy. It’s precisely in school that it’s important to value the exercise of judgment based on evidence rather than being taught how to slyly “guess” at the one “right” answer.

Children, starting from birth, as well as at ages 3, 4, and 5, are still highly motivated to make sense of the world without any prodding. Regardless of their backgrounds. In fact, you have to prod children to stop doing so. Which is what we do at the average school—by state design. I can attest to this based on evidence from almost any source. So I am alarmed at hearing that we plan to stimulate the economy by doing this with kids younger and younger. Such schooling will, over time, undermine both our economy and democracy. We need funds for our youngest—including publicly supported child care of high quality and an end to conditions highlighted in The New York Times, Page One, "In Turnabout, Children Take Caregiver Role". It's referring to preteen caretakers!

My visits to Chicago and DeKalb kindergartens (with exceptions) scared me—the absence of playfulness has become so normal! I’d love to know where you stand on this, Diane. We could even use a little disagreement!


For more critiques on the new Secretary of Education from the NY Times, please click HERE.

American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting- San Diego

Dr. Petrosino will have two papers presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association this week in San Diego. The conference meets from Monday, April 13 - Friday, April 17, 2009 and is the largest gathering and association of researchers in the social sciences in the world. Dr. Petrosino has had his research presented at the annual conference every year since 1991. The following is a summary of this year's presentations. Presentation of these research papers and expenses related come at no cost to the Hoboken School District.

Petrosino, A. J. (2009) Teachers as Designers: Examining LEGACY Cycle Authoring as a Professional Development Activity. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (San Diego).

Schedule Information:
Scheduled Time: Fri, Apr 17 - 12:25pm - 1:55pm Building/Room: San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina / Marriott Hall Salon 3
In Session: Examining the Impact of Technology in Teacher Practice, Teacher Learning, and Teacher Professional Development

Our position is that the way to meet the needs of K-12 educators to improve science, mathematics, engineering and technology based teaching and learning is best achieved by reworking the challenge based instructional environments into project-based K-12 science curricula. To do this, we employ collaborative design teams that include both teaching and learning and subject-matter expertise in STEM related areas. This means that K-12 teachers, education researchers, undergraduate and graduate students in STEM disciplines all work together to design project-based K-12 instructional materials. Over the course of the past 2 years, a total of 26 teachers from across the United States have worked on the development and implementation of LEGACY cycles. The Legacy Cycle is based on these general principles of instruction: 1) Contextualize the knowledge – Challenges provide a goal statement for the students to see how knowledge is applied., 2) Generate and demonstrate what you know – The cycle provides for multiple opportunities for student expression and activities, and 3) Illustrate knowledge in multiple contexts –exploring several challenges aids in understanding the general conditions under which the knowledge can be used. Utilizing mixed methodologies, this study examines how teacher created, challenge based learning materials impact student learning, teachers’ knowledge and technological literacy

Svilha, V., Petrosino, A. J., Martin, T., Diller, K. (2009) Learning to Design: Interactions and Distributed Cognition
Examining the Impact of Technology in Teacher Practice, Teacher Learning, and Teacher Professional Development. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (San Diego).

Schedule Information:
Scheduled Time: Tue, Apr 14 - 12:25pm - 1:55pm Building/Room: Omni San Diego / Balboa 3
In Session: Design Applications for Classrooms and Action Research

Designers rely on each other as they design, yet most studies of design occur in isolation, such that a sequestered view of design expertise has emerged. Design commonly occurs in a distributed system, with members transferring in with different knowledge and interests. This study takes as its unit of study in-situ student teams learning to design in a capstone bioengineering course. Because students are nested within teams, we analyze data using Hierarchical Linear Modeling, and find that students give significantly higher scores to the design class in terms of Critical Voice (t = 3.288, p < t =" 3.441," t ="">

Petrosino's Research Summary
Before coming to Hoboken, Dr. Petrosino was the Elizabeth G. Gibb Endowed Fellow at The University of Texas at Austin where he is also an Associate Professor of the Learning Sciences. He holds a Masters from Teachers College, Columbia University; a PhD from Vanderbilt University and did a post doc at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He has published dozens of peer reviewed articles in the area of Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Education, as well as over 45 papers presented at research conferences both nationally and internationally. He was a founding member of the nationally recognized UTeach program. He has also been award over $8,000,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation as well as grant awards form the Department of Education and the McDonnell Foundation. He has supervised 6 doctoral dissertations and has served on the committee of 20 more.

Salary as Determined by Educational Attainment

The diagram points out at least two interesting things. The first is the clear advantage that educational attainment has on salary. The second, a little more subtle, concerns the actual DECREASE in buying power over the past 10 years. Both trends can be identified pretty clearly in the diagram (Click to enlarge). Figures are current and from the US Government. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chinese Principals visit Hoboken High School

On Thursday, April 9, 2009, a group of twenty Chinese principals and other educational leaders toured Hoboken High School. They were part of the EduChina group, affiliated with Columbia University's Teachers College. After the tour, they met in the school library for a question and answer session. They were interested in all aspects of our educational system, including certification standards and hiring, the length of the school day, the IB program, the system of finance and governance, curriculum and testing. Pictured below are about half of the visiting group and (front, center, L-R) Ms. Kate Dominique (IB Coordinator), Dr. Lorraine Cella (HHS Principal) and Mr. Howard McKenzie (Math & Science Supervisor).

A recent study about High Schools in China may reveal why this delegation is visiting high schools in the United States. Specifically, Chinese high school students have the longest study hours compared to their peers in Japan, the United States and South Korea. The survey, released by the China Youth and Children Research Center, was jointly conducted with institutions in the four countries last year. It included responses from nearly 4,000 students in senior high schools and vocational high schools in the four countries. More than three-fourths of the Chinese students surveyed said they spent more than eight hours at school daily, and more than half said they studied at least two hours each day at home. By contrast, only 25 percent of their peers in the United States, 20 percent in Japan, and 15 percent in Korea said they studied more than two hours daily after school. Sun Yunxiao, Director of the China Youth and Children Research Center, says high school education in China is quite imbalanced. "Chinese students do not have enough extracurricular activities such physical exercise. They also spend the least amount of time communicating with classmates. It seems that students spend much time on study, but their all-round development has been overlooked." The survey also indicates that Chinese students spend the least amount of time talking to their parents. It also indicates that some students said their fathers did not spend enough time with them. "My father is quite busy. He has very little time to communicate with me."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tools of the Mind in Wall Street Journal 4/8/09

Another article, this from the Wall Street Journal's Sue Shellenbarger, on "Tools of the Mind" - the new curriculum we are using in our preK program this year and will start in our Kindergarten classes during school year 2009-2010. -Dr. Petrosino

When teacher Deena Randle took over a Portland, Ore., preschool class three years ago, behavior problems were so bad that "kids were bouncing off the walls, pushing and shoving, not listening -- it was wild," she says.

You'd never know it now. When Ms. Randle calls out, "Eyes up here! I need your attention," one recent day, all 16 pairs of eyes in her class of 3- to 5-year-olds turn toward her. Beyond Ms. Randle's considerable teaching skill, she and school officials credit a fast-growing curriculum that builds deliberate training in self-control right into the daily routine.

Behavior problems among small children are a growing issue. The possible causes are many: pressure on teachers to stress math and reading over emotional skills; family instability; a decline in playtime; heavy use of child care; or a rise in learning problems such as attention-deficit disorder. Based on preliminary findings from a federal child-care study, discussed last week at a conference for the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) in Denver, the slight increase in behavior problems found in children who spent lots of early time in child care persists all the way to age 15, in the form of more impulsivity and risk-taking.

But now, some novel teaching programs are showing great promise in solving the behavior problems, and perhaps in reducing ADD diagnoses. By giving children more time for dramatic or pretend play, and by building into the school day more lessons in self control, researchers are seeing both big reductions in bad behavior, and gains in cognitive skills. The findings have value for well-behaved children too; research shows behavior problems among a few children tend to drag down other kids' conduct.

Daily playtimes are a centerpiece of the curriculum used in Ms. Randle's Head Start classroom, "Tools of the Mind" -- which incorporates training in "executive function," or the mental ability to control impulses and focus on new information, into children's routine. Before playtime each day, they plan a role for themselves during an imaginary trip to the beauty shop, barber shop or library, represented by play structures along the walls. Then, they act out the roles for 45 minutes, with children helping each other stick to their roles. A boy who has chosen to be the baby, for example, would be prevented from going off track and starting to order everyone around, because he would spoil the playtime for everyone.

"It's the kind of play you and I engaged in during the summer, when you'd play the same thing for a month, like 'Knights and Castles,' " says Deborah Leong, co-creator of the program with Elena Bodrova. Today, "what parent do you know who opens the door in the summer and lets children rove around the neighborhood?"

Children learn restraint by working in pairs on math or letters. Each child holds a card with an ear, lips, hand or check mark on it, as a reminder of his or her role -- to listen, to read, to do the task or to check a partner's work. As one child practices a lesson, the other must control any impulse to interfere. The Tools curriculum is in use in about 400 mainstream and Head Start classrooms in seven states, and 400 more teachers will be trained this year, says Dr. Leong, a psychology professor at Metropolitan State College, Denver.

For full article please see the Wall Street Journal of April 8, 2009 at 

Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Education Competencies- Guidelines for Success

Recently, I have been reflecting on leadership and what makes for effective leadership in general and in education specifically. I recalled a conference presentation where members of Microsoft worked with consultants to work on some of these very issues as part of the company's educational outreach efforts as well as an examination of Microsoft's own leadership models. Originally known as the Microsoft competencies--- this work has evolved into the education field. Additionally, the Education Competencies have provided a guide for my own leadership style. While often not reaching the mark, I have found it a very useful tool for reflecting on one's administrative practice. -Dr. Petrosino

With each new student, new partner, new parent, new hire, you have an opportunity to help your school district achieve greater success. That responsibility can be overwhelming if you approach it haphazardly. With preparation and planning, you can focus your efforts and make decisions that add to the long-term health and success of your school district. If you are an administrator, teacher, student, or parent, you can use the Education Competencies to define a job profile, assess candidate competence, and plan for personal and professional growth.

Success in Education
Like the Microsoft competencies, the Education Competencies describe the full range of characteristics needed to help a school district achieve its organizational goals and vision. They were developed in partnership between Microsoft, Lominger, and school leaders from around the world.
At the core of the Education Competencies are six qualities that individuals need in order to help school districts succeed in the 21st century. These qualities, or success factors, are:
1. Individual Excellence: Ability to achieve results by working effectively with others in various circumstances.
2. Organizational Skills: Ability to communicate by various means within different organizational settings.
3. Courage: Ability to speak directly, honestly, and with respect in difficult situations.
4. Results: An emphasis on goal-oriented action.
5. Strategic Skills: An array of skills used to accomplish focused, longer-term goals.
6. Operating Skills: An array of skills used for daily management of tasks and relationships.

These six success factors form the organizing principle for the Education Competency Wheel, a visual depiction of the 37 Education Competencies. The success factors make up the inner wheel and are defined by associated competencies.
For example, the success factor Courage is defined by the competencies: Managerial Courage, Assessing Talent, and Conflict Resolution. Those three competencies describe the attributes, skills, behaviors, and knowledge individuals need to develop and exhibit Courage, a vital factor for individual and organizational success.

You can view the entire Microsoft website by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

US Schools Chief Says Kids Need More Class Time

DENVER (AP) — American schoolchildren need to be in class more — six days a week, at least 11 months a year — if they are to compete with students abroad, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday.

The former Chicago schools superintendent praised Denver schools for allowing schools to apply for almost complete autonomy, which allows them to waive union contracts so teachers can stay for after-school tutoring or Saturday school. He also applauded Denver's pay-for-performace teacher pay system, which some Democrats and teachers' groups oppose. "Talent matters tremendously. ... It's important that great teachers get paid more," Duncan said.

He visited at the invitation of Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who was Denver's schools superintendent from 2005 until his appointment to Congress this year. The city's pay-for-performance plan was one of Bennet's chief accomplishments while in charge of the 75,000-student system.

During visits to two schools Tuesday, Duncan promoted education reforms proposed by the Obama administration. But he hasn't shied away from challenging Democratic positions on education since joining the Cabinet. Last month, he said poor children who receive vouchers to attend private schools in the District of Columbia should be allowed to stay there, putting the Obama administration at odds with Democrats trying to end the program. Duncan talked up school choice during his Denver visit, though he didn't mention vouchers."I'm a big believer that students and parents should have a choice what school they want to go to," he said.

Duncan's comments over the last couple of weeks give a clear indication where policy and funding in Education will likely go during the Obama administration. Merit pay, choice, longer school day, and waiving of teacher contracts are all initiatives that will require give and take along many fronts. In addition, until the Secretary is willing to talk about what to DO with the extra time (not just more of the same thing) even if he gets his wishes they may end up being unproductive. Wherever you stand on these issues, one thing is for sure---the appointment of Duncan as Secretary of Education will eventually garner increased attention. -Dr. Petrosino